What the Bruins Should Do This Summer

Every playoff loss is usually accompanied by fans and radio hosts demanding big money players to be traded, especially in a town like Boston. However, after some time to reflect on the loss to the Senators I’ve decided that the Bruins don’t need to blow it up or make any earth-shattering moves. I think it would have been a very different series with Krug, Carlo and a healthy Bergeron (who played the whole year with a sports hernia). On top of that, trades involving upwards of 6 million in salary are rare. With that in mind, I made this off-season game plan as realistic as possible. All the moves I made are plausible considering the front office’s past decisions. It’s more likely that the NHLPA will choose to use the escalator, but I worked off of the assumption that the cap will stay flat just to keep my decision making as conservative as possible.

 

Here is the projected roster:

bruinsgm2

 

Players that left via free agency/buyouts

John-Michael Liles:

Liles was a victim of the cap. I thought his play this year made it clear he is still a legitimate NHL defenseman.  Liles is an analytics darling. His GAR (goals over replacement) makes him an attractive defenseman for analytically minded teams, but the Bruins don’t have space for him. He isn’t taking Krug or Chara’s spot on the left, and Colin Miller still has plenty of room to grow as a defenseman because of his age. Liles will easily find a job this summer.

Drew Stafford:

Stafford was a good rental, but he’s a shot anchor and ideally Beleskey will take back his spot next to Krejci. Bruins also need the cap space.

Joe Morrow:

Morrow is probably tired of sitting in the press box, and I think his limited ice time this year shows that the Bruins don’t have too much confidence in him. He played quite a bit in the playoffs, but that was with a ridiculous number of injuries to the defensive core. Better for both parties if the Bruins and Morrow part ways.

Dominic Moore:

Moore is replaced by younger and cheaper players in this universe. He had a good year for a fourth liner, but the Bruins won’t have any problem filling in his role internally.

Jimmy Hayes:

If Hayes was hurt to end the year it may not be possible to buy him out. I’m going to assume he will pass his physical during the buyout window. He just isn’t that good. Bruins will need that extra cap space.

Players that left via trade/expansion draft
Kevan Miller:

I guessed that the Bruins will protect Chara (NMC), Krug, and Colin Miller. That leaves Miller as the odd man out, and I think a number 4 defenseman who is dependable in his own zone would be attractive to Vegas.

Ryan Spooner:

Spooner hasn’t shown that he can really hack it at 5v5, and his powerplay scoring was down this year as well. I think he has quite a bit of value as a trade asset. I traded his rights to Anaheim for Montour and a 2nd round pick in 2018. The hardest thing to do as an armchair GM is make a balanced trade, but I think this works for both teams.

Players signed re-signed/acquired from free agency

David Pastrnak:

Pastrnak’s agent is allegedly looking for a long-term deal similar to the Monahan contract. He had 70 points this year, so my best guess is 6 million AAV for 6 years. This takes Pastrnak to UFA and locks him up for his prime years. Works for both sides.

Tim Schaller:

Schaller is cheap, plays good defense, and can step into the top 6 for a game in case of an injury and not look too out of place. I signed him to a deal that was a tiny raise. 950k AAV for the New Hampshire boy.

Noel Acciari:

Acciari will be a fixture on the fourth line for the foreseeable future. He’s had a little bit of a scoring touch in Providence (and roughly 500 goals taken away by video review this year), so expect him to get a couple more next year. Acciari is also very cheap: 950k AAV.

Justin Williams:

The Bruins consider themselves cup contenders in this world. Williams gives them considerable depth on the right wing. I gave him a contract for 3 years totalling 12 million dollars. An AAV of 4 million is not difficult to get rid of. They could buy out the last year of his contract or retain salary in a trade if they were desperate to get rid of him.

Brandon Montour:

Montour came from the Ducks in the Spooner deal. Very promising AHLer. Shoots a ton for a defenseman. The league is trending towards guys like this. Probably would be the 7th guy before McQuaid gets hurt fifteen minutes into the season.

This is what the salary structure looks like going forward:

bruinsgm3

 

I should talk about Matt Beleskey. He had a terrible year. There were a few things that contributed to his down year: a knee injury, different expectations in a checking role, lack of puck luck, and just not playing good enough. His trade value has tanked. I doubt he’s worth as much on the market as he is to the Bruins if he rebounds. Worst case scenario, the Bruins can retain salary at the trade deadline. Best case, he’s back to being a 35-40 point guy. Moving him would expose the lack of depth at left wing as well. Beleskey is a great second liner if he plays like he did in 2015-16.

I think the biggest problem with this lineup is the lack of defensemen Cassidy will trust to kill penalties. One of Colin Miller or Krug will have to step up and take over that role. Miller would probably surprise. He’s better than people think at boxing out players in front of the net.

I have Nash centering the third line. I think he’s a good bottom 6 forward who can contribute by scoring the occasional goal. Khudobin has also been buried in Providence to allow Subban or McIntyre to take the backup role. Otherwise, the lines probably look familiar to anyone who watches the Bruins.

I believe the Bruins team I’ve built is a legitimate playoff team, and could possibly contend for the cup. It hinges on a few things: McAvoy continuing to play like he did during the playoffs, decent goaltending, and some puck luck from the bottom 6. It goes without saying that Bergeron, Marchand, Krug and Pastrnak need to be healthy for most of the year.

 

 

I used the armchair GM tool on cap friendly to put this together. My twitter (where i talk about the NHL, boston sports and Twin Peaks) is @jeffmac95

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How To Fix The Edmonton Oilers

Continuing with my theme of fixing broken teams, my next challenge I’ve decided to tackle is the Edmonton Oilers. The team that’s been broken for ages. The last time the Oilers made the playoffs was before Connor McDavid’s 10th birthday and now he’s the best player on the team.

Some rules of this series I’m operating under: All the trades and signings are purely speculation, but I try my best to make them as realistic as possible. When signing free agents who in real life have signed with other teams by this point, by default I take on whatever contract they ended up signing with their actual team. I don’t know these players personally so I can’t say which ones would or wouldn’t want to sign in Edmonton for real. For the purposes of this exercise I’m assuming all players would be willing to sign with the Oilers for market value.

 

Just like last time, I’m hopping in my time machine and going to the start of the off-season, where I take over for Peter Chiarelli who was fired for asking if he could trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. When I take over my roster looks like this:

 

Taylor Hall

Connor McDavid Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Nail Yakupov

Patrick Maroon

Leon Draisaitl

Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu

Liro Pakarinen

Anton Lander

 

Oscar Klefbom

Mark Fayne

Andrej Sekera

Andrew Ference
Brandon Davidson

Darnell Nurse

 

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

 

Without further ado let’s jump into step one.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

It seems as though Andrew Ference’s career might be over due to injury. Losing Ference as a player isn’t bad for Oilers, in fact it’s quite good. It does however present some cap complications. If he is in fact too injured to play this season, the Oilers could place him on long term injury reserve, and they will be allowed to go over the cap by the amount of his cap hit, which in this case is $3,250,000. However, if the Oilers go this route, that means any performance bonuses will count as overages. In other words, if Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, or Darnell Nurse light the lamp next year, all their bonuses will count against the cap next season which could cost them as much as $6,175,000. This is a very undesirable situation, and would be nice to avoid. Because of this it doesn’t make sense to place Ference on LTIR simply to clear $3.25M. This leaves the Oilers will the option of keeping him for the final year of his contract and having him count against the cap, or trading him, likely with some sort of pick or prospect for some team to take his contract, or burying him in the minors assuming he agrees to waive his no movement clause. I’m going to do all I can to stay $3.25M below the cap so I don’t have to give up any assets to get him off the books. This means I’ll essentially be working with a cap of $69,750,000.

 

There’s really isn’t any dead weight which can be easily cleared without sacrificing assets, or buying players out. I don’t want to do either, but I will likely end up burying Mark Letestu and or Matt Hendricks which gives me an extra $950,000- $1,900,000 to work with if necessary. Since teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap by 10% during the offseason, this is money I can use.

 

Heading into free agency I have $12,855,084 in cap space to spend, and the extra $950,000- $1,900,000 on top of that if I need to use it. That’s certainly enough to add some key players and plug some holes.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas of Need

 

My main priority this offseason is shoring up this defense. I’d like to add enough defensemen so that both Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart can start the year in the AHL. Also, as it currently stands the only right handed defenseman on the roster is Mark Fayne. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it would be preferable to get some more righties on the team.

 

Going into next season, I’d like to be able to roll three threatening lines. One centred around Connor McDavid, one featuring Hall and Leon Draisaitl, and a third with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. Spreading out these talented players allows us to get more from all the players individually. Also it would allow me to limit the ice time of this fourth line which likely won’t be great. I’m fine keeping McDavid with Pouliot and Yakupov, where they found success last season, but adding a right winger to the second line would mean I don’t have to play Zack Kassian in the top six which is obviously preferable.

 

I’d like to redo the fourth line, but I want to keep the cost as low as possible. If I can find good players coming at or under the amount that I’ll save by burying current fourth liners ($950,000 each) then I could improve the depth of the forwards without racking up huge cap hits.

 

Last but not least I’d like to add a competent backup goalie who can ideally take some games from Cam Talbot who isn’t the strongest of netminders. As always, the cheaper the better.

 

In summary I want: 1 top six right winger, 3 cheap fourth liners, 2-3 defensemen and 1 backup goalie. I probably won’t be able to accomplish all this with my cap restraints. Some financial footwork might become necessary. Also I need to remember that McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi and others will need contracts in the next few years so I can’t rack up huge dollars for long-term. I need to spend responsibly.

 

Step Three: July 1st

 

My first addition is signing Jason Demers ($4.5M x 5 years). Demers is capable of playing on our first pair, and he is right handed. Klefbom and Demers up front gives us a legitimate top pairing which can play in any situation. Demers is better than Adam Larsson by the way.

 

Next up is David Schlemko ($2.1M x 4 years). Schlemko brings a tremendous ability to drive possession, a skill the Oilers desperately need from the blueline, and does it for cheap. He is a lefty but can play on any one of our three pairings without looking out of place. He’s probably best suited to a second or third pair role though.

 

The final addition I’ll make to this blue line is adding righty David Rundblad for $750,000 on a one year deal. He is an analytics darling who has never been given a fair shot. This one year deal allows him to prove if he’s the real deal and very low cost to the team. It’s a win-win. If he doesn’t work out he can be buried or fill in as seventh defenseman.

 

Next for my forwards I’m bringing back Teddy Purcell for $1,600,000 to play on my second line with Hall and Draisaitl. He drives play nicely while chipping in a decent amount of offense. Playing with two dynamic offensive players will likely boost his point totals and increase his trade value. He’ll probably also be getting first line minutes on this line, similar to Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh. I’m going to run two first lines.

 

Kris Versteeg, who was brought in on a PTO in real life, will make a great addition to our forward group. He’ll take Hendricks roster spot but will probably end up playing on the Nuge/Eberle line. He comes cheap off of a PTO, so I’ll give him $1,000,000 for one year. Almost all of that money will come from burying Hendricks and both contracts come off the books after this season.

 

Brad Boyes is a nice depth forward who will make our fourth line look instantly better. I’d rather have him than Zack Kassian, so Kassian will make his way to Bakersfield to make room for Boyes.

 

The last piece to my new and improved fourth line comes in the form of Jonathan Marchessault. This undersized forward is really underrated and is a cheap depth forward. Two years at $750,000 is a steal for a player this good. He pushes Anton Lander out of the lineup, but I’ll keep Lander with the big club because he’s cheap and versatile (can play all three forward positions) so he’ll be useful to replace injured players.

 

My last move is signing goalie Jhonas Enroth to a one year deal worth $750,000. He’s undersized but skilled and has played 40 games in a season before. I can see him playing 30-35 games in a relief role behind Cam Talbot.

 

As it turns out I filled all my needs with $7,806,750 left in cap space after burying unwanted players. That’s even with Ference remaining on the roster and Mark Fayne in the press box as our seventh defenseman.

 

Summer isn’t over yet though. I’m going to extend Leon Draisaitl for eight years at $4.75M. Because he only has one successful season he has very little bargaining power, but his underlying numbers were good, as were his point totals. I’m not concerned about Draisaitl long-term as he’s probably already better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

 

End Result:

 

After all my moves, my roster will look something like this heading into next season.

 

Benoit Pouliot

Connor McDavid Nail Yakupov

Taylor Hall

Leon Draisaitl Teddy Purcell

Kris Versteeg

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Patrick Maroon Jonathan Marchessault

Brad Boyes

 

Oscar Klefbom

Jason Demers

Andrej Sekera

David Schlemko
Brandon Davidson

David Rundblad

Andrew Ference (Injured)

Mark Fayne (spare)

 

Cam Talbot

Jhonas Enroth

 

I like this lineup because it spreads out the talent of our high end players while still giving them useful linemates who won’t hold them down. Throughout the lineup we have players who drive possession, so even out fourth line won’t get flattened when thrown out. We have four lines we can trust to help us shoot more than the other team which gives us a solid chance in any game. We accomplished this with $7,806,750 in cap space which will cover any potential performance bonuses and still leaves us with some roster flexibilty for trade deadline moves or bringing up AHL players. We didn’t sign any players long-term to contracts we’ll regret, so there will be money to sign Connor McDavid and other when the time comes. Leon Draisaitl is locked up long term at a reasonable rate and can play with Taylor Hall for the better part of the next decade.

 

What do you think? Better than Chiarelli? In my opinion, the fact that I still have Taylor Hall on my team proves I’m a better GM than he.

How To Fix The Canucks

 

It is a secret to nobody that the Vancouver Canucks are in a little bit of a pickle. They have a General Manager who thinks they are a playoff team and consistently trades away young players and picks for older players who, well aren’t very good. They’ve got years worth of contracts tied up in sub-NHL level players and a prospect group, which not that long ago looked as if it were one of the better groups in the league, now looks much less promising.

 

Not all of this is Jim Benning’s fault. The second he was hired he was put in an awkward position. The Sedin’s are still really good. They also still make a lot of money. This is not bad for the Canucks, but it certainly puts them in an uncomfortable position. They can’t trade Daniel and Henrik because no team in a position to make such a trade would be able to take on the combined $14,000,000 cap hits. Also the twins both have full no movement clauses, so even if a trade were possible, they would have final say in whether or not they’d want to go.

 

At the end of the day, the Sedin’s are Canucks and it will stay that way most likely until their current contracts expire (summer of 2018) at least. This left Canucks management with two options. Waste the last few productive years of the best players in the history of the team, and start a rebuild, or try and cobble together whatever pieces they could and make a run for the playoffs every year.

 

For that reason I don’t fault Benning for his efforts to make the playoffs (though I do fault him greatly for his methods of attempting to do so). Because of the Sedins and subsequent binding contracts Benning signed in order to achieve his goal, the only option the Canucks have is to at least be as good as possible. For the purposes of this exercise I am hopping in my time machine and going back to the start of the summer and filling in for the Jim Benning who was rightfully fired in this hypothetical timeline.

 

At this point in time the roster I am stuck with looks like this:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins

Brandon Sutter Derek Dorsett

Sven Baertschi

Bo Horvat

Jannik Hansen

Emerson Etem Markus Granlund

Jake Virtanen

Jared McCann

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Luca Sbisa

Nikita Tryamkin
Ben Hutton

Alex Biega

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

With this roster I have $11,906,249 in cap space to work with. That is a good amount of space, of which much will have to be wasted in clearing out some of the bad players and contracts.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

My first day on the job, I buy out Luca Sbisa straight away. Luca isn’t an NHL caliber player and makes the Canucks a far worse team. This buyout will cost the Canucks $1,517,667 the first two seasons, but opens up some cap space. We have Philip Larsen to replace his roster spot, and I think he deserves a shot in training camp to earn a spot on the starting squad.

 

I assume there would be a team who would take on Brandon Sutter. This is purely speculation, as with all the trades and signings to come in this piece, but I will try my best to make things as realistic is possible. The Bruins were a team this offseason who were aggressive in their pursuit of centre’s, including signing David Backes for $6,000,000. Sutter seems like the type of player the Bruins would appreciate, and they trade for him in exchange for Colin Miller and a second round pick.

 

In this reality I don’t buy out Chris Higgins, opting to keep him for the remaining year of his contract. He is still capable of playing a depth role and we can afford to absorb his $2,500,000 cap hit in order to get it off the books a year earlier.

 

Unfortunately this is all the trimming which I can somewhat realistically do. This exercise is being performed under the assumption the team is being pressure by ownership to make the playoffs, so I need to add some players through free agency or trade who can help us achieve that goal.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas Of Need

Presently this team is in need of a number two centre, as Brandon Sutter was traded and Bo Horvat probably isn’t ready yet. I don’t want a player I’ll need to commit to long-term because Horvat and McCann are both in the system and won’t be far away from taking on larger roles.

 

Left-wing is another weak point, as outside of Daniel Sedin, our left-wingers are Baertschi, Higgins and Etem, and that simply won’t cut it. I’m okay going longer term on this player because there’s no significant young players to step in and take this role anytime soon.

 

Last but not least I need to beef up this D-Core. Outside of our top pair of Edler and Tanev, there isn’t a lot to inspire confidence. Colin Miller looked good in Boston last year so I’ll start him on the second pair. This means ideally I’d like to add another top four defenseman and maybe someone to play on the third pair as well.

 

These are the most important areas to improve and I can do so using my $16,414,582 in cap space. Things are already looking up.

 

Step Three: Add Some Free Agents

 

It’s now July 1st and I have a pocket full of cash to spend. First thing’s first, I want to add my second line centre. My chosen player is Eric Staal. He’s not the same player offensively as he used be, but he’s very versatile, he’s a great two-way player and he signed a fairly cheap, short term contract with the Wild. I’ve signed him to an identical contract ($3.5M x 3 years), which has a low enough cap hit that I needn’t worry about having him on my third line should Horvat pass him in the next three years.

 

Next up I sign Jason Demers to the same five year contract he signed with the Panthers. He can play on our second or first pair depending on injuries and is a massive upgrade to any in-house replacements. At $4,500,000 he comes at a pretty reasonable price and I didn’t even need to give up Taylor Hall to get him!

 

A top six left winger will be hard to come by in this year’s free agency crop, so I decide to sign someone to a short term contract instead of tying my hands to a long-term deal that’ll end up looking bad down the road. David Perron suits our needs just fine for these purposes. He’ll fit in nicely on the second line with Eric Staal, and comes at a reasonable cap hit, $3,750,000 for two years. We can re-evaluate our need at left-wing two years down the road when Perron is off the books, and in the meantime we don’t need to worry about looking like idiots for signing a player way over market value well into their 30’s.

I now have $6,339,582 left in cap space and have filled all of my key weak points and sent some unneeded players to the AHL to get a more accurate reflection of what my cap will be. With my extra spending money, I’d like to shore up the D a bit and maybe add a depth forward if there’s any money left.

 

I sign David Rundblad to a two year contract at one million per year. Rundblad could just be a diamond in the rough and is well worth the risk. Worst case scenario we have a solid 3rd pair guy who contributes some offense.

 

In other moves, I brought in Kris Versteeg on a one year contract worth $1,500,000 to bring some much needed depth on the wing and signed Teddy Purcell to the same contract he signed with the Kings (one year, $1.6M). If we make the playoffs these guys will help tremendously and add some much needed offense. If not, they have very tradable contracts and can be swapped for picks/prospects at the deadline. Very low-risk contracts.

 

Step Four: Roster Moves

 

I don’t have too many trades to make in this world. I don’t have any need for Emerson Etem anymore, so I’ll trade him away for a 3rd round pick to the Devils who always could use forwards. I’ll also trade Markus Granlund for a third round pick to the Ducks who could use some cheap depth at centre until Nate Thompson returns.

 

Both Higgins and Dorsett will end up starting the year in the AHL which will not only free up roster spots for better players, but will give us some additional cap savings as well. Other notables who will be starting the year in Utica include Nikita Tryamkin who was clearly not ready for the NHL game, Alex Biega who is morbidly meh, and Jordan Subban who was not made the leap yet.

 

End Result:

 

After all these moves I can’t help but feel as though this version of the Canucks is much better. Here’s what my final roster looks like:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Jannik Hansen

Kris Versteeg

Eric Staal David Perron
Teddy Purcell Bo Horvat

Jake Virtanen

Sven Baertschi Jared McCann

Alexandre Burrows

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Colin Miller

Jason Demers

Ben Hutton

David Rundblad

Philip Larsen

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

Philip Larsen and Ben Hutton will likely rotate in and out of the lineup. So, is this a playoff team? I doubt it, but they are certainly a way better team than Jim Benning scrapped together. We also have $5,814,582 in cap space which we can use as a trade asset in order to do deals like the Bolland/Crouse trade between the Panthers and the Coyotes. Most importantly all of the additions I made were signed at or below $4.5M, there’s no contracts that stick out as potentially being burdens in the future. Whether or not you agree with the team I assembled, there’s one thing we can all agree on: pretty much anybody could have done better than Jim Benning.

Should Someone Trade for Ryan Strome?

 

If I told you there was a forward in the NHL who is only 23 years old, produces offense at the rate of a high end second liner, while also being one of the top players in the NHL at driving possession, and this player was being held out of his team because they refuse to pay him three million dollars? To me that seems like a recipe for a trade. Ryan Strome is clearly a talented player, and according to the hockey news, is at risk to miss the upcoming season due to a contract dispute with the Islanders.

 

It’s not as if Strome has been impatient with the Isles. After being drafted 5th overall in 2011, Strome waited until the 2014-2015 season to get his first full season in the NHL, despite proving on multiple occasions that he was ready for the big leagues. He put up 50 points that season, but this clearly wasn’t enough proof to the Isles that he was ready, because last season he was sent to the AHL again after having a slow start to the season.

 

Strome’s talent is undeniable though. He is an offensive threat, but his true value is his ability to drive the puck in his team’s favour. Contrary to what many believe, possession isn’t the same as defense. Strome isn’t good defensively. In fact he’s pretty bad at it. But he is so good at generating shots, that he is still a net positive for his team.

 

In terms of expected goals, you can expect the Isles to allow 0.31 more goals against for every hour Strome spends on the ice. However, you can also expect them to score 0.68 more goals in their favour in that same hour. So even though he is pretty bad at keeping the puck out of his own net, the Isles are 0.37 goals better off while Strome is on the ice. All those numbers come after adjusting for score, zone and venue, so Strome’s fairly easy deployment is factored in.

 

Strome could be a fixture on most teams first line, and would upgrade any team’s top-six if given the opportunity. Since the Islanders clearly don’t appreciate what they have in Strome, it begs the question: is a trade possible? If so, there are some obvious candidates as trade partners.

 

Arizona immediately stands out for me as being a good fit. They are an analytically savvy team first off, so they are likely to appreciate just how much Strome brings to the table. Also the Coyotes have plenty of picks and prospects to make a trade for a young player work. Last but not least, Ryan’s brother Dylan Strome plays in the Coyotes organization. If there was a chance to unite the two, it’s definitely something Arizona’s management needs to look into.

 

The Ottawa Senators were all in on the Drouin sweepstakes, and time and time again have made their desire to add a top six winger known. They also have a strict internal budget, so if they could add said winger for the price tag of around three million on a bridge deal, it’s surely something they’d look into. The Senators are one of the worst possession teams in the NHL, and Strome would be a big help in that aspect.

 

Montreal also seems like it could be a solid fit for the youngster, as they have very little up front outside of Pacioretty, Gallagher and Galchenyuk. Strome could fit in on any of their top lines, and could even end up being their second line centre, as Plekanec is not a viable option as the Habs 1C anymore (or ever…). Having Strome and Galchenyuk down the middle would be a solid tandem.

 

So Strome is clearly a talented player who isn’t appreciated by his team. That seems like the perfect opportunity for someone else to swoop in and grab a good, young player for below market value. Strome’s trade value has likely never been lower, despite being a high-end player.

Should The Bruins Move Krejci?

With the acquisition of David Backes, there is now a log-jam of potential centers for the Bruins. In particular, Backes, Spooner and Krejci are competing for the two middle six spots: during an interview with TSN on July 1st, Backes said he was told he would primarily be playing center.  While it is certainly possible for either Spooner or Backes to play a top 6 winger position, it’s questionable whether that would be the best use of assets for the Bruins.

Backes is slightly older, and might be expected to drop off sooner than Krejci, according to pretty much every aging curve ever calculated. Backes (1.27 P1/60) also scores at a lower rate than both Krejci (1.39 P1/60) and Spooner (1.44 P1/60) at 5v5.

Backes (+1.14% rel. corsi) holds a significant advantage in both relative CF%, (Krejci: -1.31%  Spooner: -3.31%) as well as xGF%. This means, relative to his teammates (relative to Krejci and Spooner), Backes either takes more quality shots than the opposition or is able to limit them better. The last three years of data show that statistically, Backes and Krejci are fairly similar to each other, although Krejci did have a much better year than Backes in 2015-16. Over the same period their 5v5 scoring rates are very similar, but Backes has the edge in possession

play. Backes (3.95 P1/60) is considerably more productive on the powerplay than both Spooner (3.3 P1/60) and Krejci (2.26 P1/60), which may come to the surprise of many.

The Bruins certainly scored enough last season (good for 5th in the league), to be satisfied with their offense, even with the loss of Loui Eriksson. However, Boston had a difficult time when it came to shot differential. The Bruins also got scored on, a lot. Clearly, the defense is the primary area of need for Boston. Presumably, most teams will want an NHL ready player in exchange for their NHL calibre defenseman. The Bruins would be dealing from a position of strength and depth if they decided to move one of the three centers I have mentioned.

I think it would be a mistake to give up a cost-controlled, young Ryan Spooner. He has room to grow and improve his puck management skills at 5v5. So, the Bruins best trade-chips (in terms of perceived value around the league and redundancy for Boston) are probably Krejci and Backes. Backes signed a contract a month ago, so trading him is simply out of the question. That leaves David Krejci. If the Bruins were to trade him for help on defense, the time would probably be right now. Even with the concerns about his health (Krejci had his second hip surgery this offseason), Krejci’s value around the league is probably the highest it will ever be. He has a reputation of being a playoff performer as well as a powerplay quarterback. A player waiving his NMC is certainly not an outrageous proposition, although it does limit the possible destinations quite substantially. For me, the question is not whether the Bruins should move Krejci for defense help, but if they can find the right deal.

 

All data is score, zone, and venue adjusted from corsica.hockey

Potential Replacements for Pekka Rinne

The recent acquisition of P.K. Subban has probably, in many people’s minds, transformed the Predators from an upper-middle tier team to a legitimate cup contender if they weren’t there already. However, there is an elephant in the room: the performance of Pekka Rinne. In the last three years (excluding goalies that have played less than 3400 minutes, which roughly equals 82 games. It leaves 42 goalies, a reasonable approximation of how many above replacement level goalies there are in the NHL at any given time), Rinne ranks 41st out of 42 goalies in adjusted Fenwick save percentage. This stat uses the shot location and type to estimate the result of a replacement level goaltender, and is then compared to the goaltenders actual results. Rinne is one of three goaltenders in this sample that has a negative value, along with Lehner and Scrivens. On the other hand, Martin Jones, whom many people use an example of only needing an average goalie and good defence to be a successful team, ranks 13th in this metric. To that end, it seems like there is some truth to only needing an “average” (in this case, average for an NHL starting goaltender- not to be confused with a replacement level one) goalie. Nashville has two options; try their hand at the trade market, or pick up a low cost, low risk asset from free agency.

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Trade Targets

Trading for a goalie is a legitimate option this summer. There are a number of teams either trying to shed cap or prepare for an expansion draft next June, which has led to the goalie market being tilted heavily in favour of buyers.

Ben Bishop

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 2.46.19 PM.pngThe Predators have roughly 8 million in cap space for 2016-17, and the only significant RFA left for them to sign is Calle Jarnkrok. On the other hand, the Lightning need to clear cap room to sign free agents next summer as well as protect themselves from losing valuable assets in the expansion draft. Vasilevskiy is more than likely the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay, and his performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins probably makes Bishop expendable for the Bolts. Bishop ranks 26th in adjusted Fenwick save percentage over the past 3 years, and has been a Vezina finalist twice. The downside when it comes to acquiring Bishop is that it will cost assets, unlike a free agent, even though he may not be significantly better than some goalies on the free agency market.  

Kari Lehtonen

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 2.46.31 PM.pngLehtonen is an interesting case. Dallas will definitely be looking to shed salary so they can pick up another goalie as the Finnish tandem of Niemi and Lehtonen was disappointing to say the least in 2015-16. However, Lehtonen’s results the last few years could also be a result of the hyper-aggressive Dallas style, as his adjusted Fenwick save percentage ranks 21st out of 42. Lehtonen could be a good buy low candidate for Nashville.

 

Free Agent Pickups

There are a number of interesting names still available through free agency, even if they lack the name recognition of those that could be on the trading block.  

Kari Ramo

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 2.46.47 PM.pngCalgary picked up two new goalies this summer; Elliott via a trade with St. Louis, and Chad Johnson from free agency. As a result, Ramo is looking for a new home. Ramo isn’t significantly better than Rinne when it comes to stopping shots, as he only ranks 38th in this category, but he would make a serviceable backup and is a low-risk pickup who can show flashes of strong play.

Jhonas Enroth

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 2.47.01 PM.pngEnroth is a very appealing free agency target, and for my money is the best guy still on the market. The small frame of Enroth has not stopped him from putting up the 20th best adjusted Fenwick save percentage over the past three years.  Enroth played exceptionally well for a Sabres team that wasn’t exactly competitive, as well as playing well with the Los Angeles Kings this past season. He won’t command much term or money, and is perhaps the best option for the Predators this off-season.

 

In terms of conserving assets and looking for the most bang-for your-buck, Enroth seems to be the most desirable goalie available for Nashville this summer. However, even a replacement level goalie will pay dividends for a team that looks to be even better after a massive roster shakeup when they traded Weber for Subban.  

 

Justification for using Adjusted Fenwick Sv% (sourced from Corsica Hockey): http://www.coppernblue.com/2016/1/8/10726308/redefining-average-goaltending-investigating-corsi-and-fenwick-save

Potential Replacements for Bernier

As detailed in this article by Chris Thomas, Jonathan Bernier has been dealt by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Anaheim Ducks. Now, it seemed as though Bernier would be Toronto’s backup goalie headed into the season, so now, Toronto will need a replacement. There are still some free agent goalies available, as well as the option to call up one of the goalies in the system. Let’s explore these options further.

 

Jhonas Enroth (28 —> Last Contract was 1 year, $1.25 mil)

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.02.33 AM.pngClearly, Enroth would be an upgrade over Bernier. They are both born in 1988, but Enroth is obviously superior. Enroth is well above the league average in Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average per 60, raw SV%, and in high-danger SV%. Most impressive is his percentage of above average appearances (68.75%). Meanwhile, Bernier is well below the league average in each of these statistics. Last year Enroth was signed to a 1 year deal worth $1,250,000, so it seems like Toronto would be able to get him for relatively cheap. The biggest knock on Enroth is his small stature – he stands at only 5’10” – but with stats like these, I don’t see why this would be a problem at all. One thing to consider is the small sample size of these statistics, only 13 games.

 

Karri Ramo (30 —> Last Contract was 1 year, $3.8 mil)

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.03.39 AM.pngIt is immediately obvious that Ramo is not as good of an option as Enroth would be. In fact, he’s not much of an upgrade over Bernier. His AdjGSAA/60 is -0.1466 (Bernier’s is -0.4956), and his above average apperance% is 48.65% (Bernier’s is 42.11%). So Ramo is an upgrade, but only by a slight margin. The fact that he demanded $3.8 mil last season is worrisome, as he clearly thinks he’s worth more than he actually is, the direct opposite of Enroth. Not the best option in my opinion. 

 

Ben Scrivens (29 —> Last Contract was 2 years, $2.3 mil)

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.09.05 AM.pngA former goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Scrivens would be a familiar backup. Obviously, like Enroth, and unlike Ramo, he has been used as a backup instead of a starter over the past few seasons. He has an above average SV%, although it is a bit deceptive. His HDSV% is very bad 77.53%, but his MDSV% and LDSV% are both exceptional, bringing it up. Considering most shots are medium danger, this isn’t a huge deal, but it is an indicator that Scrivens may not be the best goaltender. His above average apperance% is quite good compared to Ramo and Bernier at 53.33%. I’d call Scrivens an upgrade over Ramo or Bernier, but not as good as Enroth. His last contract of $2.3 mil for 2 years falls right between Enroth’s $1.25 mil and Ramo’s $3.8 mil. That’s not to say it is what his demands are this time around, but it is a decent indicator of what he might think he deserves.

 

Anders Lindback (28 —> Last Contract was 1 year, $875k)

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.05.29 AM.pngLindback is probably the worst option so far. The only positive is his low price tag ($875,000), but other than that, his stats make him undesirable. His SV% is worse than Bernier’s and the league average in every respect, except that his HDSV% is slightly higher (83.16% to 81.69%). His AAA% of 42.11% is the same as Bernier’s, and his AdjGSAA/60 is very, very slightly better than Bernier’s. All in all, Lindback is most clearly of all these goalies, not an upgrade over Bernier, and probably the worst option for the Toronto Maple Leafs so far.

 

Garret Sparks (23 —> Last Contract was 3 years at $670k)

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 9.05.47 AM.pngWow. It’s obvious right away that Sparks was terrible last season. As we all know, the Leafs put him in net during their ‘tanking’ time, and it obviously worked. Every stat outside possibly the least important, LDSV%, is terrible from Sparks. The only pros to Sparks are that a) He’s already acquainted with the Leafs’ system, b) He’s already a Leafs’ fan favourite, and c) He’s young (only 23) and can still develop. But in all honesty, Sparks is an AHL goalie, not an NHL backup, and with Bibeau and Kaskisuo already in the Marlies system, there is no need for Sparks there. If the Leafs really want to make a push to start becoming a good team next season, Sparks isn’t the way to go, any one of the four goalie above would be a better option, even if a pricier and older option.
My conclusion from all of this is to sign Jhonas Enroth. Size aside, he clearly has the best stats of any goalie available in the UFA market, and at 28, he’s just hitting his prime years. He’s used to playing a backup role, and doesn’t seem to demand a lot of cash. I’d love to see Enroth in the blue and white next season.